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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Thanksgiving Thoughts


I am truly thankful. For health, for work, for family, for friends. For the ability to enjoy a huge Thanksgiving feast that will not include a green bean casserole with fried onion rings on top.

At no other time of year do such interesting taste delights surface. Not sure if it’s Pilgrim nouvelle cuisine or what, but butternut squash soup, and cranberry relish, and chestnut stuffing are here to stay.

Personally, I could live on stuffing, but Dr. Atkins says I mustn’t.

Stuffing is what I call it. Plain and simple, if it’s inside the bird, it’s stuffing. If it’s outside the bird, it’s dressing.

Speaking of inside-outside, have you noticed that chickens no longer are sold with necks and giblets stuffed inside? I’m looking forward to peeking into the vast caverns of our family turkey this year and seeing what might happen to be tucked inside. I can’t imagine that the turkey people have followed the same cost-cutting craziness of nothing inside the bird. My hopes are to pull out something along the lines of jewelry, cash, or gift certificates.

I remember my mom taking me to a turkey farm. We ordered the bird weeks before and then went to pick it up after it was “prepared”. What an awful smell permeated that entire farm. As Petya would say, “Pee-yuk!” (He can’t remember the term “pee-yew”.) Give me the pre-packaged, white-plastic-wrapped turkey any time.

Benedetto reports that his sister once cooked the Thanksgiving turkey fully and when it came to carving time, hit a mystery paper pouch. She never knew that proper procedure involved emptying the turkey’s insides before stuffing your own insides.

I see no point in making dressing in a separate baking dish. It’s unthinkable. Unless, of course, you have such a mountain that refuses to be crammed into the bird’s… whatever. Stuffing is the best–moistened, compacted, flavored by the roasting turkey. Delightful.

What type of stuffing do we prefer? There are wild rice afficionados, bulgur enthusiasts, and cornbread devotees, not to mention those utilizing stale hot dog buns or dog biscuits. I use the standard dried herb breadcrumbs, but could easily make do with a baguette ripped into mini-bites. The bread is the least of my concerns, it’s all the other good stuff that gets me going.

I sautee onions and sausage together in butter. A few mushrooms are good, too. Add water and bouillon, then the dried breadcrumbs. Taste. Throw in a diced apple or two, skin and all. No, not the core. Scramble a couple of eggs on top and we’re cookin’. Taste again. Rosemary. Oregano. Taste. Take a nap. Allow to cool, taste, stuff bird, start to bake before the crack of dawn.

We must dine in early afternoon. We must dress for dinner. We must coordinate the appetizer, soup, main course, side dishes, beverages, and dessert. We must go for a walk around the neighborhood afterwards.

“Trah-di-shuuuunnn!” sang the fiddler. No arranged marriages here, but we are as lock-step as Tevye, and enjoying every minute of it.

This year we’ll have two kids, just enough to argue over the wishbone. It looks like we’re at the right number of children: one tyrannosaurus-sized drumstick for each. What is it about turkey drumsticks that is all the rage at the Orlando theme parks? Or at Renaissance festivals? Lots of folks walking around as though they’re in their right mind, gnawing on big, old turkey legs, meat inbetween their teeth and a gigantic grease smear on their chin? Thanks, but we’ll do our gnawing in private, hopefully with knife and fork.

This is the day which was long-awaited: another place at our holiday table has been filled. Pass the creamed spinach, and those cipollini onions, please. I still refuse to top any sweet potatoes with icky marshmallow mush. Marshmallows were designed for hot chocolate, and possibly S’mores. They do not belong in salads, on top of vegetables, or with any other semi-healthy food item.

And what’s up with the smooth cranberry gelatin wiggling straight out of the can? Stir it, slice it, do anything but leave it with the ring hump top and bottom that says, “Canned Holiday Food!” Give me a lumpy cranberry / Mandarin orange / mint / roasted pecan relish anyday. Mmmm…. Hold the brussel sprouts. And save room for a sliver of pumpkin pie, to be followed by apple pie. There’s a reason why weight loss centers spike in business in January, and it has nothing to do with resolutions, and everything to do with over-indulgent holiday revelry.

I used to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parades on TV. I admit it, I actually enjoyed them, particularly those big, lurching balloon characters, where the ropes might become tied up in trees or lift their handlers clear off the ground. More and more, the parades have turned into one long, non-stop Broadway and Hollywood promo. Not my cup of tea. I still marvel over how those dancers in skimpy outfits can keep from dropping dead in freezing temps.

The guys try to sneak a peek at the football games, this Bowl, that Bowl, as long as they have a bowl of ice cream in front of them, the perfect way to cleanse your palate after a heavy meal. My kids don’t quite understand the rules of football, which makes my husband try to explain in pidgin Russian. Very humorous, as they are all shouting one thing or another at the tube, a male bonding experience. Inevitably, one or all end up dozing in front of the fireplace.

When the meal is finally served, it’s on good china, over a damask tablecloth, with sparkling apple juice in goblets. Yet the trappings are not the most important thing. We pause, and pray. We thank God for America, land of the free, home of the brave. We feel fortunate to live in a country where there are turkey hotlines on speeddial. Our families fled to come here for a better life. Our children followed. We are living what they dreamed from afar.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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